Rudolph “Rudy” Horowitz is a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor, architect and grandfather. This past week, I met Rudy at his home in a retirement community called The Highlands, which is just a fifteen-minute bike ride away from campus.
When I entered his house, I was drawn to the numerous framed works of art on his walls. The interior of his house reminds me of a colorful Matisse painting. There are works that date back to the ’50s and ’60s, and he shared stories about how he and his late wife acquired each work and even included his relation to the artist in some instances.
I asked Rudy why he decided to write a book, to which he replied, “When I came to this country…we never talked about the past, we were looking toward the future.” In fact, it wasn’t until his grandson was born and he was in his 80s that he wanted to record the past in writing. So, in 2013, Rudy published “Avoiding the Cracks,” a book formatted as a series of letters addressed to his future grandchildren. The book captures the experiences of Rudy, his brother and both of his parents during the Holocaust and World War II. Rudy’s family secured fake Chilean passports to evade extermination by the Nazis and gained sanctuary under the Geneva Convention during World War II. Rudy’s alma mater, the University of Michigan, recently recounted Rudy’s story.
Rudy noted that he is most proud of his contributions to society, namely through his architectural career designing buildings and facilities. His designs include American Airlines Admirals Club lounges at LaGuardia and JFK and medical facilities for both New York University and the State of New York. In the early 1980s, he created an application to AutoCAD, a design and drafting design software, called GEOCAD. The application moved architectural drafting from the drawing board to the computer, while maintaining the appearance of hand-drawn sketches. GEOCAD was marketed throughout the USA.
With the creativity of a retired-architect, Rudy yearns to solve problems and create. After retiring, Rudy has designed birthday cakes for his grandchildren and created the YouTube channel “Big Banana,” where he teaches people how to make his famous bagels and gravlax, among other trades. More recently, as his eyesight has worsened, he has spent more time cooking and baking. Everyone in his neighborhood knows Rudy for his homemade bagels, which he tops with cream cheese and his homemade cured salmon. He even made them for me on the first day I visited him, but unfortunately, I am gluten free. On the numerous occasions I have been to his house, I have tried his gravlax, peach jam, apple compote and tea. Rudy is an excellent host and spending time with him has been inspiring. I’ve noticed the discipline and drive with which Rudy approaches his day-to-day life. It is no wonder he has accomplished so much in his lifetime. When I asked him how he felt about living in the Highlands community, Rudy expressed that he has met some of the smartest and most interesting people in this neighborhood. His only complaint is the lack of intergenerational connection. Rudy has spoken at local high schools and middle schools and hopes to speak at Bowdoin soon to spread his story further.
When I asked Rudy what matters most to him, he first acknowledged the transitory nature of what matters to an individual as they move through different stages of life. “What matters to me and generally all the people I know is different at different stages of life. It’s quite different when you get to my age and you have most of your life behind you.” What matters most to Rudy at this point in his life are the future of his grandchildren and fighting racism, bigotry and anti-semitism by sharing the traumatic experiences of his childhood. He is a non-believer and a supporter of Freedom from Religion Foundation. Although Rudy does not believe in the afterlife, he appreciates the genetic continuity of life in his grandchildren’s appearance, behavior and talent.